In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Lazarus hoped on the Lord. He had nothing else. (Luke 16:20) Only the Lord’s mercy. Certainly not the richman’s mercy. The rich man was free from mercy. He poured his mercy down his own throat. (Luke 16:19) Clothed himself in the garb of kings. Feasted luxuriously. He was ever merciful to his ballooning appetites. But for the man dying at his gate he had no compassion.
Truth is, he did not hope in the Lord. He did not trust in His mercy to him. He believed in his cold hard cash. His creature comforts. The material stuff he surrounded himself with. That was his god. That’s why he went to hell. He worshiped god of hell: himself. As such, he was a merciful god to himself. But a god powerless to save from death and hell. Thus, he was a fool. Who will go down forgotten and unnamed. (Luke 16:19)
Meanwhile. Lazarus, a poor beggar of no account is counted worthy by Abraham. (Luke 16:22) He is esteemed by the father of the faithed ones. (Gen. 15:6) Known by him who was reckoned righteous on account of faith in the promised saviour. Lazarus—a version of Eliezer, which means, God is my help—is credited with the righteousness that opens heaven’s gates. A righteousness not your own. An alien righteousness. Foreign to you. For it is from outside of you. It comes from God. (Gen. 15:6) Not from your actions. Just as Abraham’s baby boy had nothing to do with his actions (Gen. 15:2-3), for he and his wife were ancient (Gen. 18:11; 17:17; 21:5), it was God and God alone who granted that baby to them. And the fact that Abraham believed God’s promise was beyond belief. It was God’s merciful action on the heart of Abraham that gave him the miracle of faith in God’s saving word. (Rom. 10:17; 1:16)
So too, Lazarus didn’t go to heaven because he had suffered in life and now was being rewarded. (Luke 16:25) Rather, despite his suffering he believed in the Lord’s promise against all reason and the Lord delivered him from all his affliction. (Ps. 33:18-22) That’s why Lazarus was now being comforted while the rich man was in torment because God made good on His word.
For while your works do not justify you—for God justifies you on account of trusting in His promise of mercy to you in His Son descended of Abraham—your actions do reveal what is in your heart. Or as St. John says, you can’t say you love God and then hate your brother. (1 John 4:20) i.e., if you love God, such faith in God, such mercy granted you by His word of mercy changes you. It changes your heart and what flows forth from it. (Matt. 15:18-19) You cease to be a dog eat dog, merciful only to yourself rich man. You recognize yourself as a Lazarus. A beggar. Someone whom only dogs have mercy on. (Luke 16:21) But your hope is in the Lord. It is set fully on him. (Ps. 33:20-22) And so in faith you begin to have mercy on your fellow man. For in these last days the love of many grows cold. (Matt. 24:12) Even of the chosen ones of Lord. And when your love grows cold, watch out. Your faith burns low and may even disappear! (1 John 4:20)
So don’t be a fool and tell yourself you love God when you love only yourself and not your fellow man. When you see suffering and are never moved. And I’m not just talking about your emotions. I’m talking about your actions. Being moved to action! Your disposition in life. Do you always make excuses for why you never help? We all wrestle with ourselves over the years. The older you get you tend to become more conservative. More, “Work hard. Take care of you and yours. Do decently.” And while it is good to take responsibility for yourself and those whom God has given you to care for, your sinful nature often says, “All those good for nothings out there, taking advantage of others. Preying upon their mercy. Always looking for handouts.” And you can justify to yourself why here in Regina, Canada, in 2017 we can live like that sumptuous rich man, with better food than he ever had and more remarkable clothing than he ever had. We can pamper ourselves. Feed ourselves richly. Tend to our every want. AND think little for those who are hungry around us. I’m not saying you must help every person who ever asks for anything. Use your sanctified common sense. Help those you can. Feed the hungry. I try to buy food for the hungry person rather than give money to one who might, due to addiction, spend it on drink or drugs. But have mercy. For your Father in heaven is merciful to you.
He has granted you faith by His word. He has privileged so many of us with families who did right by us. Whom were by no means perfect but trained us in many respects to be healthy, upstanding citizens who can not only take care of ourselves, but have the resources to help and take care of others who did not have families as healthy and functional as our own. Who never benefited from same blessings you did. Why did we read in James some weeks back: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep ourselves unstained from the world.” (Jam. 1:27) It is because God has placed you here to he his hands and feet. To have mercy on those whose families betrayed and let them down. Who did not privilege them the way they ought to have been taken care of. How many orphans and widows do we have in our day? Who, while they may have both parents alive, or may have a spouse living but through family breakdown, through addiction, through the rampant wickedness of our society have been left fatherless, husbandless. Without a functional family able to rear them the way they ought be?
So this world is a place in desperate need of our Father’s mercy. How will they ever know it, if we do not give it to them? That does not mean, vote for a party who will cause the government to give more handouts—though you need to vote according to your on conscience—but what I am saying is, do not pass off your job as a Christian to the government. You go out and mercy someone. That’s what it means to love thy neighbour as thyself. That’s how you have all kinds of opportunities to tell folks about Him who has mercied you. Who has credited you with His righteousness even though you never earned it, but it came freely to you by faith in that precious saviour born of Abraham, who by His cross is your shield and your great reward. (Gen. 15:1)
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church